Once again, I found myself lucky enough to have a ticket for a World Series game. And, once again it featured my least two favorite professional baseballing organizations. But, hey, I'm a sports fan and it's the World Series so I'll be there. Early and drinking crappy beer out of a souvenir cup well before the first pitch.
The No. 4 train was loaded and the tired commuters heading home to Harlem or the BX were not pleased with the rowdy suburban white folks talking loudly and crowding them. Unlike past trips there was no "Let's Go Yankees! banter from the conductor as we pulled into the elevated station. And no "Yankees fans please take the stairs at the end of the platform to reach the Stadium and Phillies fans please get back on the train and go back where you came from" from the uniformed MTA official directing foot traffic on the platform.
Per usual the streets up at 161st Street and River Avenue were jam-packed. The street vendors were hawking their wares. The "Who's Your Daddy?" T-shirts had been pulled from storage and laid out on every table and displayed in every window. I'd say my favorite was the Star Wars themed one. The ticket touts were asking "need tickets? need tickets?" in that loud whisper that they have. Sad sack Yankees fans were holding up 1 or 2 fingers looking for their dream like hippies outside of a Phish concert.
While waiting to meet my fellow ticket holders on the patio outside of the McDonald's across the street from the ballpark I happened to notice a pair of youngish kids (late teens-early twenties) selling drugs to the older, whiter Yankees fans with the $300 tickets in their interior jacket pockets, the Brooks Brothers overcoats over their rarely worn grey Yankees hooded sweatshirts. One of the kids, I'm guessing the guy that was holding, stood a few feet away from one of the cops stationed at McD's while the other guy roamed the area acting shady and attracting prospective customers with the aforementioned shadiness. This floater would then lead the buyer over to his buddy stationed near the cop (and me) outside of McDonald's. At this point the holder would go off with the buyer while the scout took up the spot next to the cop. It was impressed when I realized what was happening. They kept one guy with the nearest cop at all times in order to keep J. Law off the back of the other. Well played, sirs.
I don't know if it was the drugs or what but the crowd was better tonight than it had previously been right from Jump Street. In other words, I didn't get the feeling that I was going to hear "down in front" from someone sitting a few rows back of me in the bleachers. Which, by the by, happened at Game 1. Yes. I'm not kidding. Someone in the famed Yankee Stadium bleachers yelled "down in front" when CC had two strikes on a batter and there were two outs in the inning. That happened. The reason I was lucky enough to score tickets was because there are some seriously obstructed views in the left-center field bleachers that are made available very, very late in the game and are even given away hand over fist to groups with some fiscal connection to the Yankees. Rather than sitting in those seats and watching the small televisions mounted on the wall of the hulking, angular Mohegan Sun Restaurant and Bar, I've opted to find a good standing room perch with nothing in my line of sight. Tonight that has me in prime position to watch Pedro Martinez as he comes up to loosen up before the first pitch.
For all the vitriol that Yankees fans have for Pedro I was actually surprised earlier in the Series by how mild the "Who's Your Daddy?" stuff was. It would flair up following a big hit but was mostly dormant. I expected it to be bludgeoned about the ears by that query. As, I would imagine, did Pedro.
Tonight, though, the crowd is in good voice. A "Lets Go Yan-Kees" chorus resounds a Pedro long tosses with Carlos Ruiz. The appearance of Andy Pettitte warming up in the home bullpen spurred the partisans. There wasn't a full-throated chant like this until the seventh inning of Game 2.
Normally I don't go in for all the pregame celebrity appearances and such but Mary J. Blige ruled the National Anthem. She was amazing, No unecessary flourishes, she just nailed it. And her sunglasses had her initials on them at the hinge.
With 38-year-old Pedro starting this game you had to figure the men heading out to the visitor's bullpen would have a say in this game. When Brett Myers had been added to the World Series roster I had sort of assumed he was Pedro insurance in case old Petey lost the plot early in a game. And with the mercury dropping, it seemed less than ideal conditions for the diminutive Dominican hurler.
Pedro took his time ascending the mound after getting out on to the field. Based on what he had to say during his workout day press conference on Tuesday it seems like Pedro really gets it and appreciates this sudden (considering he wasn't even on a team a few months ago) and momentous (uh, it's Game 6 of the World Seres) opportunity.
And even if Pedro is more than happy just to be here and even if he is pitching for the Phillies there is something special about seeing No. 45 deliver the opening pitch of a key postseason game to No. 2.